Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food Champion

Hi readers!

So, today good ole Carl and I stopped by good ole Taco Bell between stops for some gorging. But who is Carl you ask?? Carl is a guy I work with. He's good at his job (he is also an Angel Of Death btw), a self-proclaimed music and movie "snob", a good dude and musician. I like him. Anyway, after a couple appointments we decided it was time to eat. Carl suggested Taco Bell and I agreed, with zero thought necessary, to the prospect of inhaling some extremely tasty beef or chicken "material".

I approach the counter where stood what clearly appeared to be an order-taker/cashier named "Carmen". She waited to assist me in my food ordering experience. (that's the way corporate would brand the ordering process. As an "experience"...sure, ok) ...After placing my order --and being "up-sold" to food items which are probably part of some Taco Bell corporate sales initiative for the current fiscal month-- (Carmen is a good up-seller btw :) ) Anyway, after ordering; having my "experience"; taking control...I triumphantly stepped back from the counter and gazed at my order number --it was "200"-- Then I glanced once again towards the counter and noticed that Carmen's name tag read: "Carmen. Food Champion".

Food Champion??

Again please?!?

Yup. Clearly marked "Food Champion". What the fuck is that exactly??

See, after a spirited chat with Carl about the essence of Taco Bell, where it fits in our respective lives, and what it means to us, followed by a period of reflection and thought, and then a bit of soul-searching, we came to this basic conclusion:

Taco Bell is a place with food items made of incredibly tasty "materials". Those food items are basically constructed by beef, chicken and steak "material" as the foundation. Items such as lettuce, tomatoes, cheese "materials", sour cream, hot/mild sauces, nacho chips and hot peppers, are added/subtracted from various templates of either the beef, chicken or steak "material". Bread items such as crunchy and soft taco shells, tortilla shells and "big" crunchy tortilla shells house, and are integral parts of, the various templates. The food items taste very, very good, however, we are all acutely aware that it is not "healthy" food.

We go there late at night, at lunch on a bad day, at lunch on an exceptionally good day, and when we have given up.

We go there when we are shit-faced, drunk and sloppy, looking to gorge ourselves on various food templates. We want instant gratification, big time. Now.

It's that simple.

But of course, the CEO's, corporate marketing pro's, possibly some upper managers, definitely all the divisional and regional managers, and high-level productivity consulting firm representatives, all gather round to "brand" the company. They want to create a "high-quality" image to the stupid general public for their great tasting food item templates. They want us to feel warm, trusting, satisfied and educated. Educated in our menu and food template choices. We shall be assisted by a certified "Food Champion"; a helping hand; someone who cares. my friend, in their eyes that was no cashier/order-taker I met today. That was a valuable consultant in my diet (let's use the word "diet" loosely here), and my life for today.

See, before engaging in my food ordering "experience" with the Food Champion, I basically pointed at the menu and grunted to designate what food I wanted. To Carmen, it translated to "I'd like a Crunch Wrap Supreme, and two Soft Tacos...". Carmen said "Why don't you get that one?", as she pointed to a picture of a Crunch Wrap Supreme, a Soft Taco AAND A Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

Sold. Educated. Better person because of it --because the Cheesy Gordita Crunch provided WAAAAY more instant gratification that the Soft Taco would have. And Carmen knew it.

Anyway, After a day's worth of thought, I believe I can help the CEO's and their cohorts to create a new, honest and down -n- dirty branding campaign that will shatter all sales numbers from previous quarters. The public, being more informed these days due to the massive information available to us via internet research, isn't buying the "Food Champion" shit. It's just not based in reality at all....Let's start by doing away with the "Food Champion" moniker and instead, let's just call them "Enabler". Or "Dealer". Then we shall do away with all the cute little names of the food templates. We do not care what their name is. We realize that there is very little difference between them. We realize we will like the taste of anything we get.

I propose that we just put a bunch of little red balloons on the wall and have Taco Bell provide darts for us. We will throw them at the little balloons on the wall. When we pop a balloon, there will simply be a number or letter behind the balloon. For example, you may pop a balloon to reveal the letter "X" or the number "32". You even may encounter a combination of letter/number --at participating locations-- for example, "27A". These letters and numbers will designate what your food template will be. You will not know what it is until you are presented with it. You will not care because you realize that the beef, chicken and steak "material" and it's corresponding food items and bread items basically are ALL THE SAME.

You want to gorge.

This branding strategy will comfort us, get us involved, get more of our money, and in the process entertain and delight us! No "Food Champion" necessary. No cute little names for the food templates. Just a fun carnival atmosphere where we get "surprised" by the food we get. We don't worry about that though...because as we all know....

Taco Bell tastes real good.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Brilliance and clarity often go hand-in-hand.

Hard to imagine brilliance coming along without clarity...

Recently, my administrative team, who by the way is an impeccable research machine in itself. The "team"....anyway, ..recently, my administrative team has been really into David Foster Wallace --again. This is a good thing.

The man was a clear thinker, influential author and flat-out brilliant.

This blog post is only to expose some people to David Foster Wallace, A very smart more here:

And now, mind-bending products of clear-and-disciplined thoughts --and real deep shit, choice quotes From David Foster Wallace........

"What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human [...] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic."

"Literary fiction and poetry are real marginalized right now. There's a fallacy that some of my friends sometimes fall into, the ol' "The audience is stupid. The audience only wants to go this deep. Poor us, we're marginalized because of TV, the great hypnotic blah, blah." You can sit around and have these pity parties for yourself. Of course this is bullshit. If an art form is marginalized it's because it's not speaking to people. One possible reason is that the people it's speaking to have become too stupid to appreciate it. That seems a little easy to me."

"What the really great artists do is they're entirely themselves. They're entirely themselves, they've got their own vision, they have their own way of fracturing reality, and if it's authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings."

"I like the fans’ sound at night. Do you? It’s like somebody big far away goes like: it’sOKit’sOKit’sOKit’sOK, over and over. From very far away."

"You want your art to be hip and seem cool to people, but a great deal of what passes for hip or cool is now highly commercially driven. And some if it is important art. I think 'The Simpsons' is important art. On the other hand, it's also, in my opinion, relentlessly corrosive to the soul and everything is parodied and everything is ridiculous. Maybe I'm old but for my part I can be steeped in about an hour of it and then I have to walk away and look at a flower. If there's something to be talked about, that thing is this weird conflict between what my girlfriend calls the 'inner sap,' the part of us that can really wholeheartedly weep at stuff and the part of us that has to live in a world of smart, jaded, sophisticated people and wants very much to be taken seriously by those people."

"Irony and cynicism were just what the U.S. hypocrisy of the fifties and sixties called for. That’s what made the early postmodernists great artists. The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates. The virtuous always triumph? Ward Cleaver is the prototypical fifties father? "Sure." Sarcasm, parody, absurdism and irony are great ways to strip off stuff’s mask and show the unpleasant reality behind it. The problem is that once the rules of art are debunked, and once the unpleasant realities the irony diagnoses are revealed and diagnosed, "then" what do we do? Irony’s useful for debunking illusions, but most of the illusion-debunking in the U.S. has now been done and redone. Once everybody knows that equality of opportunity is bunk and Mike Brady’s bunk and Just Say No is bunk, now what do we do? All we seem to want to do is keep ridiculing the stuff. Postmodern irony and cynicism’s become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage."

"It now lately sometimes seemed a black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe."




Monday, February 13, 2012

Give. Take...take.


Yeah....this evening I was able to complete a refreshing and invigorating yoga session to the Braveheart movie soundtrack. That's right. During the flowing yoga session, I reflected on a conversation I had moments ago, before the yoga.

I was in jest with a friend of mine who will go unnamed. We were joking around, or at least I thought we were joking, about fun stuff bands do. In particular, a band he is currently a member of. I sincerely think what they're doing is cool and a good time; while being musically entertaining as well. Either way at the completion of the conversation, or, what I thought was the completion of the conversation, he says, "See, I don't view music as a competition."


It, whether admitted to or not, was directed at me. Context my friends, ...context. It was delivered in a way as to suggest he had A) Recently thought up the concept; the words themselves; the intended target(s). Or B) Someone had recently told that to him and he internalized it. ..It kinda put me back on my heels due to the way it was verbalized, so I said something along the lines of "no shit....I know it's not a competition....wait, are you saying that....etc???" So, basically there was a moment of how-did-this-come-from-out-of-that conversation-??-type of thoughts and responses. From there, he seemed to "buy" my retort and he proceeded to switch gears to someone else that he feels may in fact, be "competing" in music, rather than creating art to the best of their desire and abilities. Someone else who happens to be involved in making music with me....So, it's pretty clear to good ole ZFJ that my good friend's viewpoints about people "competing" in music, had at one point or another landed on my character. Me?? My good friend, who by the way is an excellent musician, was on a pedestal with this viewpoint. Or at least it was delivered that way. Unintentionally, or intentionally.

Not to have my narcissistic personality slighted, I will now go on a bit of a pedestal with my viewpoints. I'll keep it, it'll probably end up long-winded....just skip whole parts if you get tired.

Anyway, I have written a lot of music. I've been able to perform it mostly on my/our terms along the way. I am also blessed to know, have known and to write and play with many great musicians. I have the fulfillment derived from releasing a number of albums I've been part of; Being on other musicians' releases; Memories I helped create...shit, the hard work is and was worth it.....and, that music I helped to create, that I believe in such much....I always want to share it. And I've been able to share it with thousands of people so far. Admittedly, I have graced the lunatic side with regards to promoting my music in the past. Why, numerous times I've sold over a hundred tickets by myself to events I've been part of! Yes readers, that is boasting about lunatic-side promotional efforts. It sucks to harass your friends, families and fans to come out to your show, ten times; a hundred times. I understand this....Point is, if I believe in it, I just want to give it more ,in ways I can give to know?

But I digress....I've been wrapped up with thoughts today, about some things I've experienced since I started doing the booking/promotions at The Elevens ( See?!? Right there! That's why I get a bad rap. Just. Can't. Help. The...shameless... promotion. Anyway. About the thoughts about things I've been privy to. The thoughts involve some alarmingly consistent patterns, from similar contexts, involving would-be book-ees as well as acts that have been on some show bills.

Now, without further ado, here's the burning topics consuming my brain, from the musical competition portion of my life.

1) Why do out of town bands coming on tours to our area, with minimal credibility, and status-quo music, always ask for sizeable guarantees (a set amount for the performance)?

So I ask back what they can guarantee in draw (people through the door)? They usually get A) Mad. B) Really informative as to why they should get what they want with no idea of who may show up to see them. C) Back way down on their requirements, realizing that the venue is willing to host them, if it's makes sense. So, why can't it make sense for the venue in the first place? Why all the haggling?? If you can, by whatever means, create an event that will do well for you and the venue hosting your event, everybody wins.


2) Why do talented local musical acts, with fresh ideas, sometimes have next to no fans in the room? Lot's of times, actually.

Example: 5 local bands on a bill. Looks promising. They have 35 people in the room. 20 of them are legitimately in the bands, and getting a couple drink tickets each. Again, they had like 15 people there who were not performing. This has nothing to do with their music or them as people. But, well...let's add it up. Let's say the 20 band members individually get 4 friends out to the show. That means there are 80 people in the room. 100 people when you add in the members of the band. At our venue, that would be a very solid draw and would most likely be an exciting environment to perform in. Seems almost amazing that this doesn't happen.

And don't tell me you have less fun when 99 of your friends are reveling in your music with you pal.

Simply, 4 friends come to join in the live performance of music, written and performed to perfection, by their friends. Why not?

So, ...why not?

Why do people get bent out of shape if a show doesn't get booked, or an existing show has to stop because it doesn't do well?? Why can't the venue, who is hosting the event, and therefore incurring operating expenses, be allowed to recoup those expenses?? (more evidence of how I may be "competing" in music --not even pointing that comment at my friend. Ok. Yes I was.) What if the venue was even open to try and make a slight profit while hosting quality entertainment (quality is a relative term)?? Are we getting into the big-mean-corporation angles here? No. We're not. Why can't some people find 4 people to entertain with their music but other people can find hundreds?

Because some people are willing to see both sides of the equation, and they attempt to have it make sense, for everyone. That's why. That's the way to do it folks. In anything you do in your life actually. To see both sides of the equation requires you to get over yourself, put yourself in the other person's shoes, and be objective when you're forming your decisions. But you have to get over yourself first!

Still, the vast majority of people who light up our stage are class acts, fortunately.

Ok. There we had been too long since I spewed out some motivational-speaking-esq drivel about music related stuff. People are so fucking judgemental about things.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beautiful day


The sky this morning was incredible...there were breaks in the clouds and beams of sunlight blazing down all over the horizon like some alien attack. Of course I thought of an alien attack. Music was good -meaning the ipod contraption that I pass for a sound system decided to work very well. The song selection was solid (friends, picture me saying "the song selection was solid".....thanks.) Thought flowing....Feeling ok.....but lot's going on lately. And then, a confused driver swings from the cruising lane, where it had been trapped behind a lumbering giant of an 18 wheeler, into the passing lane bringing the entire flow of traffic down to to 57 mph. For miles. Nobody could pass. Then, I'm tryin' to go 80 mph in the passing lane but my speed is nowhere close to where the guy behind me thinks it should be. So, I get tired of him ridin' my ass so I pull over to the other lane, but he doesn't fly right past me, as I suspected he might. Nope. Instead, he drove next to my car, rather than passin', and trapping me behind an huge truck. THEN, I almost get sideswiped by a lady in a red....OH fuck this... Blah blah balh alhs, hblah, ...right, I'm going off the tracks here.

The real thing is, what causes this rash of driving behavior through a full day? This evening, the administrative crew and myself discussed the following potential causes. Either it is the "aligning of the stars effect". Or, "the ripple effect" from a small number of drivers who happen to be off their game for whatever reason. They manage to screw many other drivers up through their incredible driving ignorance, causing a massive ripple effect to the roadways. Roadways such as the ever-vile Mass Pike. I think about that daily while dodging death on the Mass Pike. Are there cosmic forces at work that make people who are operating motor vehicles not be good at it? And/or render others intolerant to those who are not good at it?? Or is it the ripple effect from a small number of dullards who create enough hassle to throw off the very flow of vehicles traversing the massive roadway??

Is it both?

Either way, I'm looking forward to not driving to Worcester every day.

Oh and, on the way home I got to add a nice 30 minute out-of-my-way treat to my day because: A 18 fucking wheel trailer truck had flipped over right on the exit to the Mass Pike. All us fools in our folly got routed to the exit for the Mass Pike which goes the opposite way. Upon my unhappy arrival at the next exit, I could tell that this had been going on for awhile. "This" being the emergency crews blocking the other exit to get the ridiculous crash scene cleaned up. There were 100? Maybe 150? Cars, all in gridlock, trying to do various levels of u-turn to go the other way. I finally fight my way through the din to get in the lane, to get back to the direction of the Pike I need. Finally, as I am almost in the desired lane, I was suddenly forced to jump on the brakes as I see a Nissan SUV --with a CT plate, of course--whip a u-turn at the last second, into my lane and right at my car. The vehicle came about two feet from crushin' my drivers side it the stars? The fools?? Something else?

I pass by the toll booth operator on my way to MA 90 West, who very-audibly says to whomever she is talking to on the phone, "these are the smaaaat ones..." --in her stupid Eastern, MA accent-- referencing the people who did not go through the toll booth and pay --like I did-- but instead were pullin' u-turns before the tolls....the "smaat" ones.

So, I also got called stupid. Indirectly.

Whine...whine, whine...whine.


And now, Jan Terri!!!